The Eddie 2023: As Close to Perfect As It Gets

Matt Rode

by on

Updated 16d ago

Three days ago, looking at the Eddie forecast, I thought it looked a little off. While the projected numbers looked solid—no big wave surfer has ever sniffed at 15 feet @ 18 seconds—they weren’t anywhere near the level of the previous two Eddies in 2016 and 2009. In fact, they weren’t even in the same ballpark as the non-Eddie swell of January 2021, when the event didn’t run due to COVID-19. Even a few mornings ago, as people began pitching tents and installing sofas on the side of Kam Highway on the hill overlooking the Bay, I still thought it was going to be a bust.

Then NW Hawaii Buoy 1 hit last night, and suddenly it was apparent that of course, Uncle Clyde and the forecasting team knew exactly what they were doing.

By the time the sun rose on the Eddie morning, Buoy 1 had hit 27 feet at 19 seconds, Waimea Buoy had already eclipsed the projected 15 feet at 18 seconds, dozens of misguided beach campers had been rescued (many with serious injuries), and there was no longer any question that this was going to be a legit Eddie day. The only real questions that remained were how big it would actually get and where the hell anyone who wasn’t lucky enough to score an invite to the event was going to surf.

How big? The only answer is...very! And heavy.

How big? The only answer is...very! And heavy.

© 2023 - Pedro Gomes.

As it turned out, the answers to those two questions were “very big” and “Makaha,” unless you were on the tow program or had your own personal ski safety team to save you from outer reef closeouts. Waimea Buoy ended up peaking at 21 feet at 18 seconds, and I’ll go out on a limb and say those are probably the biggest numbers of Oahu in the past two decades (I’m sure Pat Caldwell will have something to say about that claim). Waimea River was full of slippers, beach chairs, and all sorts of other crap that had been lost by spectators, cars were literally washed off the bridge by Rock Piles, and I was getting reports all day of unridden 80-footers at Kaena Point.

Greg Long, won the Eddie on December 8, 2009. And here, avoiding hell.

Greg Long, won the Eddie on December 8, 2009. And here, avoiding hell.

© 2023 - Pedro Gomes.

Waimea Bay wasn’t quite as big as the outer reefs, but it was definitely legitimate Eddie size, with 30-to-50 foot faces all day. Perhaps just as importantly, the swell was incredibly consistent, which is pretty rare for such a long-period affair. Rather than feast or famine, which is often the case on a long-period swell, pretty much every heat pulsed, with a near constant barrage of sets and numerous opportunities for everyone. If you wanted a bomb, it was there for the taking—all you had to do was commit.

Thousands of cars backed up from Waimea to infinity.

Thousands of cars backed up from Waimea to infinity.

© 2023 - Pedro Gomes.

As icing on the cake, the conditions remained impeccable all day long—moderate offshore ESE trades groomed the pit at Waimea to perfection, much to the delight of a stacked field that put in an all-time performance.

Since I’m already out on a limb, I’ll double down and assert that today may have been the best day of surf at Waimea Bay in history, in terms of consistency of large sets, quality of conditions, and the overall level of surfing that was exhibited. It was the sort of day that made you wish you had an invite to the Eddie—or that made you really glad you didn’t.

On a day like today, it is always hard to pick a winner. The simple fact that women were finally included in the event was a win, and watching Emi Erickson, Paige Alms, and Justine Dupont send it on bombs was amazing for everyone watching, not to mention women’s surfing in general.

Keala is the living embodiment of sending it.

Keala is the living embodiment of sending it.

© 2023 - Pedro Gomes.

The entire field was charging, with tons of amazing rides completed, and as Clyde Aikau said at the awards ceremony, everyone who paddled out today deserves celebration. But there were a few standouts amongst the very talented field, and to my eyes they included John John Florence, Mark Healey, Luke Shepherdson, and Lucas Chumbo (the latter of whom made arguably the best drop of the day, but then went on to injure himself attempting a floater in the shorebreak—yes, you read that correctly).

Chumbo, uh oh.

Chumbo, uh oh.

© 2023 - Pedro Gomes.

After the points were tallied, defending event champion John John Florence was narrowly pipped in second place, while local favourite Luke Shepherdson (a Honolulu City and County lifeguard and the man who paddled what was quite possibly the biggest wave ever ridden at Waimea a few years ago) took the win with two perfect 30-point rides and a near-perfect 29 in his tally.

Congrats Luke!

Congrats Luke!

© 2023 - Pedro Gomes.

On the ultimate day at Waimea, with the Bay about as perfect as it gets, it was fitting that a local lifeguard (who was surfing between shifts) should win the day with a near-perfect score. As far as I’m concerned, that’s about as close to a perfect ending as a day like this one can have.

Results, out of a possible 90
1. Luke Shepardson 89.1
2. John John Florence 84.2
3. Mark Healey 82.3
4. Billy Kemper 79.5
5. Kai Lenny 76.7
6. Ezekiel Lau 75.5
7. Landon McNamara 75.3
8. Keali’i Malama 72.5
9. Lucas Chianca 71.7
10. Ross Clarke-Jones 70

Rewatch The Eddie!

Cover shot is Ross Clarke-Jones